Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. III: Literature of the Revolutionary Period, 17651787
To a Happy Bridegroom
By George Washington (17321799)
[Letter to the Marquis de Chastellux.Mount Vernon, 25 April, 1788.]
MY DEAR MARQUIS: In reading your very friendly and acceptable letter, which came to hand by the last mail, I was, as you may well suppose, not less delighted than surprised to meet the plain American words, my wife. A wife! Well, my dear Marquis, I can hardly refrain from smiling to find you are caught at last I saw, by the eulogium you often made on the happiness of domestic life in America, that you had swallowed the bait, and that you would as surely be taken, one day or another, as that you were a philosopher and a soldier. So your day has at length come. I am glad of it, with all my heart and soul. It is quite good enough for you. Now you are well served for coming to fight in favor of the American rebels, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, by catching that terrible contagion, domestic felicity, which, like the small-pox or the plague, a man can have only once in his life, because it commonly lasts him (at least with us in America; I know not how you manage these matters in France), for his whole lifetime. And yet, after all, the worst wish which I can find in my heart to make against Madame de Chastellux and yourself, is, that you may neither of you ever get the better of this same domestic felicity, during the entire course of your mortal existence.
If so wonderful an event should have occasioned me, my dear Marquis, to write in a strange style, you will understand me as clearly as if I had said, what in plain English is the simple truth, Do me the justice to believe, that I take a heart-felt interest in whatsoever concerns your happiness. And, in this view, I sincerely congratulate you on your auspicious matrimonial connection. I am happy to find that Madame de Chastellux is so intimately connected with the Duchess of Orleans; as I have always understood that this noble lady was an illustrious example of connubial love, as well as an excellent pattern of virtue in general.
While you have been making love under the banner of Hymen, the great personages in the north have been making war under the inspiration, or rather under the infatuation, of Mars. Now, for my part, I humbly conceive that you have acted much the best and wisest part; for certainly it is more consonant to all the principles of reason and religion, natural and revealed, to replenish the earth with inhabitants, than to depopulate it by killing those already in existence. Besides, it is time for the age of knight-errantry and mad heroism to be at an end. Your young military men, who want to reap the harvest of laurels, do not care, I suppose, how many seeds of war are sown; but for the sake of humanity it is devoutly to be wished, that the manly employment of agriculture, and the humanizing benefits of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; that the swords might be turned into ploughshares, the spears into pruning-hooks, and, as the Scriptures express it, the the nations learn war no more.
Now I will give you a little news from this side of the water, and then finish. As for us, we are plodding on in the dull road of peace and politics. We, who live in these ends of the earth, only hear of the rumors of war like the roar of distant thunder. It is to be hoped that our remote local situation will prevent us from being swept into its vortex.
The constitution, which was proposed by the federal convention, has been adopted by the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Georgia. No State has rejected it. The convention of Maryland is now sitting, and will probably adopt it; as that of South Carolina is expected to do in May. The other conventions will assemble early in the summer. Hitherto there has been much greater unanimity in favor of the proposed government, than could have reasonably been expected. Should it be adopted, and I think it will be, America will lift up her head again, and in a few years become respectable among the nations. It is a flattering and consolatory reflection, that our rising republics have the good wishes of all the philosophers, patriots, and virtuous men in all nations; and that they look upon them as a kind of asylum for mankind. God grant that we may not disappoint their honest expectations by our folly or perverseness.
May 1st.Since writing the above, I have been favored with a duplicate of your letter in the handwriting of a lady, and cannot close this without acknowledging my obligations for the flattering postscript of the fair transcriber. In effect, my dear Marquis, the characters of this interpreter of your sentiments are so much fairer than those, through which I have been accustomed to decipher them, that I already consider myself as no small gainer by your matrimonial connection; especially as I hope your amiable amanuensis will not forget sometimes to add a few annotations of her own to your original text.